Albemarle quarterly profit jumps on rising lithium demand

(Reuters) -Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest lithium producer, posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday due largely to rising sales of the white metal used for electric vehicle batteries.

The company reported second-quarter net income of $424.6 million, or $3.62 per share, compared to $85.6 million, or 80 cents per share, a year ago.

Albemarle sold its Fine Chemistry Services division to W.R. Grace & Co in June for $570 million, which boosted quarterly results.

Excluding that and other one-time items, the company earned 89 cents per share. Analysts expected earnings of 84 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Lithium sales jumped 13% as long-term customers accelerated their contracts and took supply early, Albemarle said.

In Chile, the company’s La Negra III and IV processing facilities are in commissioning, while construction at Australia’s Kemerton I plant should be finished by the end of the year, Albemarle said.

“We are firmly focused on advancing all our lithium projects to meet customer demand and accelerate profitable growth,” Albemarle Chief Executive Kent Masters said in a statement.

Shares of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, which have gained about 35% this year, fell about 1.4% to $204 in after-hours trading.

Sales in the company’s bromine division, which makes chemicals used in part for fire retardants, jumped 20%, while sales in the catalyst division, which supplies oil refineries, fell 25% due in part to a key customer changing its purchase timeline.

The company plans to hold a conference call with investors on Thursday morning to discuss the quarterly results.

Reporting by Ernest ScheyderEditing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot